A straight path runs through a forest of yellow trees

Federal Budget Roundup September 2021

Like many stakeholder groups, advocates in environmental education have been anxiously waiting for several elusive pieces of a complex fiscal puzzle to fall into place for an understanding of how environmental education (EE) fits into the bigger picture of the FY22 budget. But even with the September 30 deadline to fund the government for next year, the normal appropriations process has taken a back seat to negotiations on infrastructure, at least for now. Here’s the latest on what we know and what we don’t when it comes to how environmental education is faring in the fiscal year 2022 budget and in the two-track approach to infrastructure investments. 

FY22 Appropriations
The House Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior and Environment essentially level-funded EPA’s Office of Environmental Education at $8.7M in their budget report, released in July. The report also included language urging agencies, including EPA, to partner with EE organizations that increase access to outdoor learning opportunities in under-resourced communities. 

Also on the House side, the Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee passed a bill that increases funding for grant programs administered by NOAA’s Office of Education. In total, the bill includes an overall increase of more than $8M for the office, with a roughly $4M increase for NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education and Training (BWET) program and a $2M increase for the Environmental Literacy Program. In its report, the Committee encourages NOAA to prioritize climate change education. 

The Senate Appropriators have yet to draft spending bills for FY22, even though the current fiscal year ends this week. Hopefully, Congress will pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of the year, but a partisan fight over Democrats’ effort to tie a CR to an increase in the debt ceiling may cause a brief government shutdown. We’ll know by the end of the week! 

Budget Reconciliation
Sticking with a theme of uncertainty, it’s still unclear how large a budget reconciliation package will be and what will be included. The purpose of the package is to make significant investments in what the Biden administration calls “human infrastructure”--health care, childcare, community college, and more--as well as to tackle pieces of the climate crisis. But disagreements over the size and scope of the bill make it difficult to predict the final product. Promising news for environmental education comes from one piece of the proposal being drafted in the House--the inclusion of $82B for K-12 public schools. These funds are meant to help modernize aging and deteriorating school facilities, making them more sustainable and resilient. Importantly, improvements to outdoor spaces for learning and resilience would be an allowable use for these funds. 

NAAEE will provide updates on the federal budget and reconciliation as we learn more. Join the Advocacy, Policy, and Civic Engagement group on eePRO to stay informed.